LA Cracks Down on "Addictive" E-Cigarettes

Electronic cigarettes will soon face the same regulations as tobacco products, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously decided Tuesday.

By Samia Khan and Conan Nolan
|  Wednesday, Dec 4, 2013  |  Updated 8:04 PM PDT
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The LA City Council took a big step in regulating the use of electronic cigarettes by voting on Wednesday to treat them the same way tobacco cigarettes are treated. Conan Nolan reports from the L.A. Civic Center for the NBC4 News at 5 and 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.

Conan Nolan

The LA City Council took a big step in regulating the use of electronic cigarettes by voting on Wednesday to treat them the same way tobacco cigarettes are treated. Conan Nolan reports from the L.A. Civic Center for the NBC4 News at 5 and 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.

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The e-cigarette party is over -- at least in LA.

The city is cracking down on the ever-more-popular products, which come in flavors like bubble gum and cookies and cream, and are often marketed as substitutes for cigarettes.

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a measure Tuesday to regulate e-cigarettes the same way it does tobacco products.

"What we don't know is the exact level of danger, but we know it is a nicotine product," said Councilman Paul Koretz. "We know it is addictive and we fear this will start a number of young people on tobacco cigarettes.”

The council acted in part because of concerns over the growing popularity of e-cigarettes among teens, he said. Their action will regulate the sale of e-cigarettes, and prevent minors from acquring the potentially addictive product.

Dr. Jonathan Samet, a researcher at the USC-Keck School of Medicine, said there has been "a doubling of use among youths" in a year, citing what he called "disturbing" data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Teen usage of e-cigarettes surged from 4.7 percent of teens in 2011 to 10 percent of teens in 2012, the research found.

MORE: E-Cigarette Use Doubles Among US Teens

The battery-operated portable devices, which resemble traditional cigarettes and often contain nicotine, come in multiple flavors and emit an odorless liquid-based vapor. 

The ordinance must be signed by Mayor Eric Garcetti before it goes into effect. Under the measure, customers will be required to show proof that they are at least 18 years of age.

A city permit will be required to sell the e-cigarettes, which will be banned from street and mobile vendors, such as food trucks.

Proponents of e-cigarettes are quick to defend the product, which they call "vaping" because of the vapor, not smoke, that they’re inhaling. Some, like 27-year-old LA resident Aaron Ronquillo, consider it the best alternative to smoking.

“I was a pack a day smoker. My friends said you need to try [e-cigarettes] out,” Ronquillo said. He credits "vaping" for helping him quit tobacco. 

The city is considering additional restrictions that would ban the use of e-cigarettes in public places, such as restaurants and parks.

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